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A Reader of Fictions: Balaclava - The Arctic Monkeys

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Balaclava - The Arctic Monkeys

Zom-B, Book 1

Author: Darren Shan
Pages: 173
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Publication Date: September 27, 2012
Source: Little, Brown at BEA

Description from Goodreads:
Zom-B is a radical new series about a zombie apocalypse, told in the first person by one of its victims. The series combines classic Shan action with a fiendishly twisting plot and hard-hitting and thought-provoking moral questions dealing with racism, abuse of power and more. This is challenging material, which will captivate existing Shan fans and bring in many new ones. As Darren says, "It's a big, sprawling, vicious tale...a grisly piece of escapism, and a barbed look at the world in which we live. Each book in the series is short, fast-paced and bloody. A high body-count is guaranteed!"

First Sentence: "Then...It was the darkest, most wretched hour of the night when the dead came back to life and spread like a plague of monstrous locusts through the village of Pallaskenry."

My only prior experience with Darren Shan was the first book in the Cirque du Freak series, which we read for my Young Adult Services class in Library School. I remember mostly enjoying it, but for some potty humor kind of stuff I really could have done without. I was expecting something similar here, something for younger YA that like violence in humor. Actually, I think the gore and darker tone of this one definitely skew it up more than I was expecting, despite its brief length.

Another thing I was not expecting: how incredibly British this book is. Seriously, I don't remember if Cirque du Freak is set in Britain, but this one's set in London. There's slang and all of that, which made for a nice change.

Our MC, B is not the typical hero. B leads a group of no-account ruffians, that frequently take sickies from school. They beat up other kids, they pass their classes because the teachers don't want to risk and attack, and they are generally awful, violent people. Expect the first hundred pages, except for the prologue, to be entirely about B's life and little gang, not zombies. If this a concern, don't worry: you'll get plenty of zombie mayhem in gore in the last 70 pages, and, presumably, in the following books.

Yet another surprise waiting for me in Zom-B were the serious themes, both of racism and of parental abuse. B's father clearly turned B into this violent creature, as he regularly beats on B and B's mother whenever displeased. Were their cards for being a racist, B's father would surely be carrying one proudly. He wants all of the foreigners out of England, and doesn't care how that happens. B doesn't believe those same things, isn't a racist. Well, B doesn't think so anyway. However, racist sayings and thoughts creep in and emerge from B's mouth. I thought these themes were just a bit heavy-handed, but I was really glad to see that there was substance to the book, not just gore.

As promised, there is horror galore. The zombies are creepy, with bones spurting from everywhere and the ease with which they can infect. Ugh. There's plenty of brain-chewing to keep the zombie-enthusiasts pleased. Most disgusting and horrifying scene for me was most definitely B's dream about zombie babies on an airplane. Glad to know I'm not the only one terrified by babies. *shudders*

Zom-B offers all the gore its creepy cover promises. You want kids trapped in a school with hungry zombies and plenty of death? You got it. Also, expect twists that you probably won't see coming. Shan certainly surprised me.

Favorite Quote: "It's hard to believe I can make a joke at a time like this. But as awful as this is, as shocking as it's been, I have to go on. At the moment I'm alive. Those of us in this group have a chance to get out and fight another day. We have to cling to life as tightly as we can, put the atrocities from our thoughts, deal with this as if it were a surprise exam. What I've learned today is that when crap hits the fan, you can sit around and get splattered, or you can take it in stride and do what you must to get away clean. I'll have nightmares about this later, maybe full-on nervous breakdown, but only if I keep my cool and stay alive."

"Running off over next doors garden
Before the hour is done
It's more a question of feeling
Than it is a question of fun
The confidence is the balaclava
I'm sure you'll baffle em good
With the ending wreek of salty cheeks
And runny makeup alone

Oh will blood run down the face

Of a boy bewildered and scorned
And you'll find yourself in a skirmish
And you wish you'd never been born
And you tie yourself to the tracks
And there isn't no going back
And its wrong wrong wrong
But well do it anyway cause we love a bit of trouble

Remember: Every comment on a post during Dystopian August is an entry to win one of fourteen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels IF you've filled out the form from this post.

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Blogger Bekka said...

I just read this! I really liked it, but sadly, I had the major mega twist spoiled for me, even though there is a GIANT request from the author on the first page to not spoil it for everyone else. What a jerk.

I can't wait to see what happens in the next installment. I have no idea where it's going to go.

I, too, loved that there were heavier themes to this book besides just the horror of society falling in on itself. The racism and abuse and the nightmares made for a way more interesting character, even if I didn't necessarily like B.

August 14, 2012 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

"potty humor kind of stuff"

"They beat up other kids, they pass their classes because the teachers don't want to risk and attack, and they are generally awful, violent people."
ugh. What kind of hero is this?

"how incredibly British this book is"
I can rarely ever tell if a book is British, unless words like "bloody," "biscuits," or "tea" show up.

"B doesn't believe those same things, isn't a racist. Well, B doesn't think so anyway. However, racist sayings and thoughts creep in and emerge from B's mouth."
I find it interesting when the character thinks he isn't something but his actions say otherwise. The denial makes him a realistic character.

*looks at your Goodreads widget*
OOO, you are reading False Memory!

"zombie babies on an airplane."
O_O I'd think they'd be the easiest to kill. *imagines Wack-a-mole*

"There's plenty of brain-chewing to keep the zombie-enthusiasts pleased."
Not my thing. How do you even describe brain chewing? This book just sounds disgusting.

August 14, 2012 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger aLilLacey said...

"It's a big, sprawling, vicious tale...a grisly piece of escapism, and a barbed look at the world in which we live." I'm horrified just reading that about the book. Eeek. No blood and guts and gore for me. Thanks for the review though and you're ago brave lasting through a book like that.

August 14, 2012 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Don't read Artemis Fowl. You will not like it at all.


There was a bunch of British slang which clued me in. Like calling slutty girls slags, although that's also happening in an American one I'm reading now which is weirding me out.

Yup, the racism stuff was probably the best part, even if it was a little heavy-handed.

I am. I finished, but I don't know when I'm posting my review yet. This is one of those books where I haven't found the right song yet. *throws tantrum*

Maybe, but babies are horrifying.

Well, first you start out by cracking the head open.

August 15, 2012 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yup, I read the giant request from the author and really liked his tone. He's entertaining. Wow. I can't believe people still spoilered it. They either tl:dr'ed the request or just hate him and want him to die. I mean, I guess I would have if I'd one starred the book, but I would have been all SPOILER ALERT. The review wasn't as hard to write as I was expecting from all of his warning though.

Me either! It's not my favorite book ever, but it's fun and he did some daring things.

Precisely. I didn't like B, but I liked B better for all of the introspection and navel-gazing.

August 15, 2012 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hahaha, I'm pretty used to reading books like this, but they're definitely not for everyone. Shan does like to make things gruesome, because he's trying to appeal to teen male reluctant readers. It's like: "You don't like books, you say? What if THERE IS BRAIN-EATING?"

August 15, 2012 at 8:00 AM  

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